I don’t know about you but I am fascinated by stories about sea changes. Microsoft executive gives up corporate job to build schools for third world kids. Woman moves to China with husband and opens a cafe (plug much?!). Couple with baby leave the city and their city jobs to build a teeny, tiny house with all their savings…
A few months ago my sister, Kendall, confessed that she and her husband, Steve, had been doing a lot of soul-searching. I was immediately anxious because their combined soul-searching had, in the past, led them far away from me – to India and Nepal, for example. I had no place getting antsy about them travelling or moving, to be fair I’d probably outdone them on that front over the years, but now they had a little baby (MY niece!) about whom I am very possessive. Besides which, I had finally moved back home… “I am home, you are home, let’s all live in the same one kilometre radius and raise our children together! It’s perfect!!” But apparently not perfect for them. The regular suburban life, which I am suddenly quite enthusiastic about (previously not so much. previously more of a gypsy.), was simply not working well for them. They were dreaming of something different. Something small and different…
The closest I get to being maternal with regard to a fully-grown adult is with my sister. I worry for her, I want the best for her, I would walk on broken glass for her. (And then instruct her to soak my wounded feet, I’m still the eldest after all). When Kendall explained their plan – to move up North and use their savings to build a very small house on a trailer frame – I was flooded with all those maternal-ish, big sister feelings. And I did the helpful, big sister things – I tried to smile but made a wobbly, worried frown instead, I asked, rapid-fire, too many questions, I worried and worried and worried some more. And while I was occupied with hand-wringing the two of them got on with tipping up their lives, emptying out the contents and making room for this new adventure. Steve left his job, they explained their plans to family and friends, surrendered their rental unit, sold furniture, made goals and lists and budgets. Before I’d gotten my head around it they were already setting off.
I still have a lot of questions. I still have a strange, difficult to explain feeling (a bit like when you were kids, playing a game, and one kid says “Nah, I’m not playing anymore.” and you’re all “What?? I thought we were having fun?!”). I still worry. I think they probably do too; which is all part of the journey and why I wanted to ask them questions here, at Fork and Fiction, and to share their story and the story of their tiny house with you. As they mention in their answers, below, tiny houses have become something of a movement as people seek ways to live more affordably while causing less impact or damage to the earth. I’m curious to see how this project unfolds, what the experience might lead them to, how it will both challenge and nourish them in ways they might not expect. And, as you may have guessed, this is the first of a three part series so you get to see the beginning, the middle and the conclusion. I want to bring you the story as it happens, rather than giving you a simple Before + After photo pairing, which, in my opinion, side-steps all the heartache, the small successes, the pain and the joy (“The juice” – a therapist once described it to me). This is a sea-change in action, with all the hopes and hiccups on show. But I’m stealing the thunder here. Time to give up being the narrator and let our protagonists tell their own story…
When did you first become interested in tiny houses?
K: I assume it was when Steve showed me images of them on the internet. He is always researching and sifting through the internet and showing me this and that. Tiny houses were one of the ideas that stuck for both of us.
S: I think it was when I saw them on tree hugger. I appreciate simple/minimalist architecture and these houses really struck a chord with me.
What was your first exposure to them?
K: After Steve first introduced me to tiny houses I found the site tinyhouseswoon.com They feature tiny homes from around the world that are absolutely gorgeous. Not all of them are homes on trailers like ours will be, there are boats, buses, cabins etc all transformed into beautiful homes.
S: After treehugger I researched a number of other blogs as there is quite a tiny house movement in the States.
What led you to undertake this project?
K: There are many things that have lead us to build our tiny home. A desire for a slower paced life, a smaller mortgage, less possessions, less expenses and therefore less need to work long hours.We have always wanted to live outside the city and own our piece of land. We want the chickens, the vege patch, the bubbling creek..all that idyllic rural stuff. We really hope that this will be the catalyst for a complete change of lifestyle; less stress and less expenditure therefore more free time for ourselves and our wee family.
S: We realised that the way that we were living wasn’t moving us towards our goals and this was the time for a complete change to reevaluate.
What have you sacrificed or changed about your life to undertake this project?
K: We have left our rented unit and have moved out of the city to the worlds most beautiful location – Omaha beach. My parents have generously sacrificed their holiday house and land for us to live in and build our tiny home on. We currently live in a two bedroom tent so that each couple has their own space over the summer holiday break. It’s surprisingly comfortable with our bed inside. The birds wake us and our little one up bright and early.. a little too bright and early. We are further from friends and family which is difficult at times but we are living in the area we would like to settle in so we are adjusting.
S: Leaving my job was difficult but has allowed us to undertake this project. No current income and murky future income is pretty hard to adjust to.
What skills do you have for this project?
K: I have pretty much no skills but a smattering of creative craft ability.
S: Minimal. I know the theory behind construction but I don’t have much practise in actually building anything so this is going to be a challenge.
What skills will you have to outsource or learn?
S: The goal is to do it all ourselves with input from the expertise of friends and family as needed. We are learning as we go which is the fun part.
How have people reacted when you have explained your project to them?
K: People generally are really interested. There have been quite a few people who know of the tiny house movement and they get excited to chat about it. Most people however think we are building a caravan.
S: Our families have been very supportive and positive. I originally thought people would be confused or apprehensive about the project but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the amount of support.
Which aspect is the most challenging to explain?
S: That it’s not a caravan, and yes all three of us will be living in a house that’s only 20 square meters.
K: It’s quite difficult to explain that we (Steve and myself) are building it and that we are outsourcing very little.
What excites you about this project?
S: The lifestyle changes that living in the house will afford us.
K: I’m excited about seeing it develop. I can’t wait to walk inside when there are walls up and think “We did this”
What are you most worried about?
S: Stuffing it up.
K: Most of our savings are going into the tiny house and we are both currently unemployed so there is money pressures. In saying that the tiny house is hopefully going to save us money in the future so it’s a financial squeeze for now with benefits later.
What has surprised you about the project thus far?
K: Affordable second hand french doors are hard to come across. That and my husband has many hidden talents.
S: The level of support has surprised me to most.
This is just the beginning… what are you most looking forward to once the project is complete?
S: Laying in the bed loft looking at the stars through the sky light.
K: Finding our own patch to park the house on.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of ‘The Story of a Tiny House” when we check in on Kendall and Steve (and Adorable Baby Niece) in a few months. By then they should be in the middle of their project. Halfway through, halfway finished, with a stack of learning and tales and mishaps to share with us. In the meantime please feel free to leave them good luck note or share your own sea-change tale to buoy them up as they work to make their not-so-tiny dream a reality.
*BIG thanks to Kendall and Steve Stewart for allowing me to share their answers and personal story here and post photographs of their beautiful wee family. Arohanui, always.*
Amazing story! Thanks for sharing Kendall and Steve’s adventure. I spent (not) a (small) bit of time on tinyhouseswoon.com the other night…so thanks for the new procrastination tool! 🙂 Good luck to the builders!
They don’t lie about the name, do they Ria? Swoon alright!! (Were you dreaming about a tiny writing studio? I was…) x
awwww I love you too sis. xo
Love this, can’t wait for the next update. Good on them, very brave and inspiring.
Thanks Amelia! They will be chuffed to read your comment; thank you x
Go you two pioneers! It will no doubt be a huge success! Great blog Hanzy
Awesome and awe inspiring. Such a bold and brave thing to do. Can’t wait to read more 🙂
So much courage coming from love and good intention!! It makes me weep I’m so proud of you guys following YOUR dream. And Hannah documenting it here is just so fitting. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds with all the challenges and triumphs xxxx
Hi Hannah and Kendall,
I loved reading about the tiny house. I saw an English TV programme where a family had converted a little three wheeled car into an exquisite little caravan and I thought it was charming. Best of luck with the next stage Kendall, Steve and Elvie. Love Jo xo
A tiny house to call home filled with family, love and a lot less stress is far better then a big house with a huge mortgage and a heap of ‘stuff’ to gather dust .., awesome move guys – brave and exciting all at the same time … Can’t wait to hear more xx great writing big Sis xx
Thank you all SO much for your comments. Keep ’em coming! Kendall and her family are staying over with us tonight and we’ve been talking about the incredible love and encouragement they’ve received from you all. It’s truly, truly appreciated. It feels like a community of support has risen up. So special. x x x
Go Kendall! I’m reading this from London – about as far away from
The tiny house as you can be. I’m excited for your dream and will
Follow your progress..good luck lovelies x
Hey H…..have you seen this doco about a guy building a tiny house in the US?
There’s also this one that looks like it is coming out this year:
Theres no doubt that these two will nail this project, can’t wait to see more.
Just watched those trailers Brad, they look great! Wanna see! Totally agree, Matt, and loving the construction pun there bro… 😉
There are two fundamental ways to live ones live want more or need less. From my experience it is easier and more fulfilling to have less stuff and posessions which leaves you to have more time to do the things that you enjoy. I’m so happy you guys are following your dreams and not getting hooked up on conventional thinking. Can’t wait to come home to see you guys.